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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 22 June 2021

Contents

  1. Lockdown revives aquatic life in Chambal river
  2. Plan to put Lakshadweep under Karnataka High Court
  3. EU slaps new sanctions on Belarus
  4. Conference on water: Water security in India
  5. Are your staple rice and wheat losing their nutrients?

Lockdown revives aquatic life in Chambal river

Context:

The aquatic animal population, including dolphins and gharial, in the Chambal river passing through Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh has increased significantly in the past year due to a decrease in demand for fish and sand amid the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology 

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About flourishing life in the Chambal river
  2. Chambal River

About flourishing life in the Chambal river

  • Forest department officials said improvement of quality of aquatic life in the Chambal river also caused an increase in the population of gharial (type of crocodile) by 17% and crocodiles by 24%, according to the survey.
  • Officials have identified the dolphin pools in 2019 and spotted 25 dolphin calves in Chambal river.
  • They have deployed Ghat (bank) in-charge near the pools to check illegal net fishing as it was a major reason behind the death of calves.
  • The dolphin population was falling every year between 2016 and 2020 but for the first time in six years the population has increased.
  • Experts feel the state government should come up with a plan to maintain this quality of aquatic life and habitat so that net fishing and sand mining does not increase once the lockdown is eased.

Click Here to read About the Ganges river dolphin and Indus river Dolphin

Chambal River

  • The Chambal River is a tributary of the Yamuna River in central India, and thus forms part of the greater Gangetic drainage system.
  • The river flows north-northeast through Madhya Pradesh, running for a time through Rajasthan, then forming the boundary between Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh before turning southeast to join the Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh state.
  • The perennial Chambal originates at janapav, south of Mhow town, near manpur Indore, on the south slope of the Vindhya Range in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The Chambal and its tributaries drain the Malwa region of northwestern Madhya Pradesh, while its tributary, the Banas, which rises in the Aravalli Range, drains southeastern Rajasthan.
  • It ends a confluence of five rivers, including the Chambal, Kwari, Yamuna, Sind, Pahuj, at Pachnada near Bhareh in Uttar Pradesh state.
  • The Chambal River is considered pollution free, and hosts an amazing riverine faunal assemblage including 2 species of crocodilians – the mugger and gharial, 8 species of freshwater turtles, smooth-coated otters, gangetic river dolphins, skimmers, black-bellied terns, sarus cranes and black-necked storks, amongst others.

-Source: The Hindu


Plan to put Lakshadweep under Karnataka High Court

Context:

The Lakshadweep administration, which has been facing widespread protests over its policies, has mooted a proposal to shift its legal jurisdiction from the Kerala High Court to the Karnataka High Court.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Judiciary)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why change Lakshadweep HC jurisdiction now?
  2. High Courts for Union Territories

Why change Lakshadweep HC jurisdiction now?

  • The proposal was initiated by the administration after several litigations were moved before the Kerala High Court against the decisions taken by the islands’ new Administrator.
  • These decisions included revising standard operating procedures for COVID- appropriate behaviour, introduction of the “goonda Act” and demolishing hutments of fishermen for widening of roads.
  • As many as 23 applications, including 11 writ petitions, have been filed against the Administrator and also against the alleged high-handedness of either the police or the local government of the islands. The proposal for shifting its legal jurisdiction from the High Court of Kerala to Karnataka comes amid these developments.

Click Here to read about the recent reforms in Lakshadweep

High Courts for Union Territories

  • Article 241 talks about “High Courts for Union territories”. It says: “Parliament may by law constitute a High Court for a Union territory or declare any court in any such territory to be a High Court for all or any of the purposes of this Constitution”.
  • As per the Constitution of India, “When a common High Court is established for more than one State, administrative expenses have to be paid only from the consolidated fund of the ‘State’ in which the principal seat of the High Court is situated”.
  • The High Court is the supreme judicial body in a state and according to Article 214, each state of India shall have a High Court.
  • However, Article 231 also mentions that there can be a common High Court for two or more States or for two or more states and a union territory.
  • There are 25 High Courts in India, six having control over more than one State/UT. Delhi has a High Court of its own among the Union Territories.

-Source: The Hindu


EU slaps new sanctions on Belarus

Context:

European Union foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on scores of officials and several organizations in Belarus, and prepared a series of economic measures aimed at hitting President Alexander Lukashenko and his allies.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-II: International Relations (Important International groupings), GS-I: Maps

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. European Union
  2. About Belarus
  3. Recent Protests in Belarus

European Union

  • The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe.
  • The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one.
  • EU policies aim to
    • Ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market;
    • Enact legislation in justice and home affairs;
    • Maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development.
  • A monetary union was established in 1999, coming into full force in 2002, and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.
  • In January 2020, the United Kingdom became the first member state ever to leave the EU.
  • Note: United Kingdom is not a part of the EU now.

About Belarus

  • Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the east and northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest.
  • Belarus is the thirteenth-largest and the twentieth-most populous country in Europe and Minsk is the capital and largest city.
  • Belarus is a developing country ranking very high in the Human Development Index.
  • It has been a member of the United Nations since its founding as well as a member of the CIS, the CSTO, the EAEU, the OSCE and the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • It has shown no aspirations for joining the European Union but nevertheless maintains a bilateral relationship with the bloc, and likewise participates in two EU projects: the Eastern Partnership and the Baku Initiative.
  • The parliament of the republic proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus in 1990 and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence in 1991.
  • Alexander Lukashenko was elected Belarus’s first president in the country’s first and only free election post-independence, serving as president ever since.
  • Lukashenko’s government is widely considered to be authoritarian and human rights groups consider human rights in the country to be poor.
  • Lukashenko has continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy.

Recent Protests in Belarus

  • Belarus is gripped by mass protests, triggered by an election widely believed to have been rigged in favour of the long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko.
  • The scale of the protests is unprecedented for Belarus and more than 600 people were detained during the September 2020 protests.
  • After violent clashes with opposition demonstrators, numerous allegations of police brutality, processions of women in white with roses and walkouts at major state enterprises.

What is the background?

  • Europe’s longest-serving ruler, President Lukashenko took office in 1994 amid the chaos caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
  • Often described as Europe’s “last dictator”, he has tried to preserve elements of Soviet communism. Much of manufacturing has remained under state control, and main media channels have been loyal to the government. The powerful secret police is even still called the KGB.
  • At the same time, Mr Lukashenko has tried to style himself as a tough nationalist with a direct manner, defending his country from harmful foreign influences, and a guarantor of stability.
  • These factors have given him – until now – a solid base of support, though elections under his rule have never been considered free or fair.
  • The opposition protests have been fuelled by complaints about widespread corruption and poverty, a lack of opportunities and low pay. Dissatisfaction was compounded by the coronavirus crisis.

-Source: The Hindu


Conference on water: Water security in India

Context:

An e-conference on water source sustainability was jointly organised by the Indian Water Resources Society and the department of water resources development and management in June 2021. The main agenda was the demand and supply of water.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture (Issues related to Irrigation), GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Sustainable use of water)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the Conference on Water
  2. Way Forwards suggested

Highlights of the Conference on Water

  • A recent conference on water provided an opportunity to policymakers, academicians, researchers and students to gain expertise from technical experts on matters of water resource engineering and management for water source sustainability by including a combination of theory, conceptual and applied science.
  • Wastewater usage, water-effecient agriculture, knowledge of soil moisture and convergence in agriculture could be possible methods to deal with the twin scourges of climate change and the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to experts at a recent conference on water.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has shown that water bodies in India are shrinking in size. “Encroachment is leading to the shrinking of water bodies, which is evident from as many as 87 lakes in Bengaluru that have been encroached upon and have consequently shrunk.
  • People’s dependency on groundwater has led to the unplanned and reckless exploitation of ground water sources.
  • The conference focused on the analytical and computational aspects of water as well.  It was suggested that protocols should be made on the usage and supply of water. India should also have a buffer stock that can be used during emergencies in the future. In a diverse country like India, different models should be made for different regions.
  • India is the country with the highest usage of water in agriculture — 13 per cent — followed by China, US and Russia.
  • Climate change has impacted rainfall patterns, thereby leading to variations in soil moisture content.

Way Forwards suggested

  • There is a need to implement technologies that conserve water and practice sustainable agriculture. Sustainable models should be made on water budgeting, its allocation and management of competitive demand of water in all sectors.
  • Substitution of water should be taken into account along with technology, pricing and reuse options. Wastewater should be treated as a resource and not as waste. Once treated and purified, this treated water can be substituted for fresh water.
  • Cohesive decision-making is needed at the central and state level to manage water resources.
  • Emphasis should be given to conservation of water and development of alternate sources of water. One can reuse waste water post treatment. An integrated approach is needed to ensure water security by adopting sustainable technologies in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering.
  • Understanding of soil moisture in varied regions will help in understanding water runoff. The precipitation is usually high in summers and one should focus on acts of downscaling.
  • From drip irrigation to sprinkler irrigation, convergence is needed in agriculture. Energy and agriculture should be emphasised in any policy or model of water supply and management.

-Source: The Hindu


Are your staple rice and wheat losing their nutrients?

Context:

Today’s rice does not have the same density of essential nutrients as those cultivated 50 years ago, notes a new study.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Loss of nutrients in rice and wheat
  2. Way forwards suggested
  3. Understanding Biofortification

Loss of nutrients in rice and wheat

  • Zinc and iron concentrations in grains of rice cultivars released in the 1960s were over 25mg/kg and almost 60mg/kg respectively and this depleted to just over 20mg/kg and less than 45mg/kg respectively in the 2000s.
  • In wheat, the concentrations of zinc and iron was over 30mg/kg and over 55 mg/kg respectively in 1960s and this dropped to just over 20mg/kg and 45mg/kg respectively in 2010s.
  • Zinc and iron deficiency affects billions of people globally and the countries with this deficiency have diets composed mainly of rice, wheat, corn, and barley.
  • Though the Indian government has taken initiatives such as providing supplementation pills to school children, it is not enough. We need to concentrate on other options like biofortification, where we breed food crops that are rich in micronutrients.

Reason for the decline in nutrients

  • There could be several possible reasons for such depletion: one is a ‘dilution effect’ that is caused by decreased nutrient concentration in response to higher grain yield.
  • This means the rate of yield increase is not compensated by the rate of nutrient take-up by the plants. Also, the soils supporting plants could be low in plant-available nutrients.

Way forwards suggested

  • Growing newer-released (1990s and later) cultivars of rice and wheat cannot be a sustainable option to alleviate zinc and iron malnutrition in Indian population.
  • The negative effects need to be circumvented by improving the grain ionome (that is, nutritional make-up) while releasing cultivars in future breeding programmes.
  • There is a need to concentrate on other options like biofortification, where we breed food crops that are rich in micronutrients.

Understanding Biofortification

  • Biofortification is the idea of breeding crops to increase their nutritional value. This can be done either through conventional selective breeding, or through genetic engineering.
  • This is an important improvement on ordinary fortification when it comes to providing nutrients for the rural poor, who rarely have access to commercially fortified foods.
  • As such, biofortification is seen as an upcoming strategy for dealing with deficiencies of micronutrients in low and middle-income countries.

Biofortification Initiatives Taken by India

  • Recently, 17 biofortified varieties of 8 crops was dedicated to the nation such as Rice- CR DHAN 315 has excess zinc, Wheat- HI 1633 rich in protein, iron and zinc, Maize- Hybrid varieties 1, 2 and 3 are enriched with lysine and tryptophan, etc.
  • Madhuban Gajar, a biofortified carrot variety, is benefitting more than 150 local farmers in Junagadh, Gujarat. It has higher β-carotene and iron content.
  • ICAR has started Nutri-Sensitive Agricultural Resources and Innovations (NARI) programme for promoting family farming linking agriculture to nutrition, nutri-smart villages for enhancing nutritional security and location specific nutrition garden models are being developed to ensure access to locally available, healthy and diversified diet with adequate macro and micronutrients.
  • The production of bio-fortified crop varieties will be upscaled and linked with government programmes of mid-day meal, Anganwadi etc. to reduce malnutrition.

-Source: The Hindu

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